Age plays significant a role in dogs as it does in humans, especially when choosing their diet. Like how you wouldn't feed babies the same food as adults eat, a puppy must not be fed the same diet as an adult or senior dog. Read more to learn how and why you must choose the right dog food for your dog according to his/her age.
Biological differences are the sole reason for a puppy to be fed a puppy diet, and there are no two ways about it. If you want a healthy puppy that grows into a healthy adult, feeding him/her nutritious puppy food is vital. The nutritional requirements of puppies and adults are as different as night and day. Puppies need nutrition to grow into healthy adults, and adults need nutrition to sustain and age well. You will notice the most significant difference between puppy food and adult/senior dog food in protein.
A puppy needs around 22.5% of calories from protein to grow well, and an adult needs about 18% of calories from protein to support a healthy body. This 4.5% difference may seem insignificant to us, but it can lead to developmental problems in puppies - weak bones, cardiovascular problems, neuromuscular disorders and so on.
'Protein' in puppy food is actually a bag of essential amino acids that is required for good mental and physical well-being. So, how much protein does a puppy need? Twice as much. Protein is not all that is different in puppy food. The Association of American Feed Control (AAFCO) claims that puppies need more fat in their diet, too - 8.5%. Adult dog food has only 5.5% of fat, i.e. it is not as calorie-rich or energy-dense as puppy food. Why does a puppy need that extra fat? Because they have a larger surface-to-volume ratio than do adult dogs - their bodies burn off heat quicker than adults; in turn, their bodies need to work harder to maintain an ideal body temperature. Lastly, and most importantly, is the requirement of calcium and other essential minerals that aid the growth of a strong skeletal, muscular, and nervous system. Adult dog food has 0.6% of calcium, and puppies need 1% of calcium to meet their growth requirements.
Choosing good quality puppy food that uses the finest quality ingredients is essential in helping your little buddy grow into a robust and healthy adult. Many pet parents choose their puppy's diet based on the breed and flavour. That said, which flavour of puppy food does your puppy like best?
For the pet parents who feed adult dogs puppy food in the hope that they will continue to grow in size - well, that's not going to happen. Instead, your dog's body is flooded with excess calories and a higher percentage of fat. When adult dogs consume puppy food regularly after achieving their fullest height and weight, their bodies receive an excess of protein, fat, and calories. The concern with this is weight gain. When a dog's body doesn't need so many calories, it begins to store them in the form of fat, and excess fat in the body leads to cardiovascular problems because the heart has to work twice as hard to pump oxygen to all the layers of unnecessary fat.
Besides, your dog is also predisposed to diabetes, arthritis, and immobility. An adult dog food's primary goal is the maintenance of a healthy body. It has just the right amount of vitamins, minerals, proteins, and fats to keep your dog's mental and physical health under control. Like with puppy food, most adult dog food is breed-specific. They are tailored to meet breed-specific nutritional requirements adequately. If you still think that your dog needs a higher proportion of vitamins and minerals in his diet, feed him supplements instead of puppy food.
Supplements are a way of feeding all the goodness of puppy food minus the adverse effects of excess calories and fat. Whether you choose an adult dog food that is universal or breed-specific, make sure that it is of good quality. Never settle for a commercial diet that uses lower quality ingredients because this tends to have an adverse effect on your dog's health in the long run, especially when he touches eight years old.
The most neglected diet is that for a senior dog. We, as pet parents, fail to realise the need to change our dog's diet once they reach 7 or 8 years old. It is hard to watch our dogs age, but the best we can do for them is to feed them a diet that supports a strong, healthy body for the rest of their lives. The trick to making them hale and hearty despite their age is knowing when to transition into a senior dog diet.
Small breeds 'grow old' much slower than medium and large breeds - a seven-year-old Yorkie isn't as old as a seven-year-old Great Dane. 'Old age' for a small breed is roughly at ten; seven or eight for a medium breed; and seven for a large breed.
As a dog's body ages, it loses its ability to fight infections, repair wounds, and maintain normal body functioning. Because of this, their health and endurance begin to decline. For this, they need food that helps them fight infections and inflammations, i.e. a diet rich in fibre, antioxidants, protein, and fat. Their diet also needs supplements, prebiotics, and probiotics to fight problems of organ diseases. If your dog has or is prone to certain diseases, your veterinarian can prescribe a diet meant for her condition. Most senior dog diets are tailored to provide a feeling of satiety - they have a higher percentage of fibre in comparison to fat (8%). This is done to prevent obesity and its subsequent problems since a senior dog does not exercise as much as adult dogs.